Saturday, November 3, 2012

Poly Problems: When Incomes Clash


As we are finding our way as a cohabitating poly family, we are finding there are certain aspects of life that are ingrained so deeply that adjusting has been harder than we thought.  The Mister and I are solidly in the "median household income" category of Americans, while the Libertine is not.  We are blue collar workers, while he has a very white collar, flexible schedule type career.  

To the Mister and I, $50 is a lot of money.  We are very experienced at dancing the fine line between making sure there is enough money in savings to cover an emergency and making sure that we have a little bit of fun every few weeks or so.  We splurge on the kids to the point of sacrificing for ourselves - something I'm sure every parent does, but for us it means that I will mend holes in pants instead of just buying new ones or that the Mister will eat a yogurt for lunch for a week straight to make up for the extra spending.

For the Libertine, $50 is nothing.  He will frequently take me out for lunch or dinner and think nothing of paying for it.  I have largely given up trying to pay for my fair share and instead make sure that I'm cooking dinner for him at least 4 nights a week and that I'm keeping up with the housewifery as best I can.  The Libertine is used to just going to the store and getting whatever looks good, something the Mister and I have just never done.  

It's been difficult for me to put aside my pride and my penny-stretching skills and ask the Libertine for help.  He repeatedly asks me how much money we need to accommodate for the addition of another adult to our home, and for a long time I would just dodge the question with "whatever you think is fair."  Lately he has taken to simply handing me random amounts of money, or getting the odds & ends at the store that he knows we need.  Money is a touchy subject, more for me than for him, and just because the Libertine and I love each other deeply doesn't mean that talking money is any easier.  I don't ask him much about his income or his spending, and he doesn't really ask us much about ours.  We each have a general idea of what is going on with the other money-wise, but we really don't get specific.  

It's very hard to change the way someone thinks about money.  The Mister and I are used to not having much to work with and making sure that we have what we need before we get what we want.  The Libertine doesn't really have to worry about delineating those things, so sometimes it's hard for us to communicate about why we can't do something.  For example, it took probably a month longer than necessary for us to get the Libertine a bed of his own in the house.  "We can't afford it right away" was met with "I will just pay for it," and we wanted to feel like we were participating in the changes to the household.  The Libertine just wanted a bed!  He felt like we were trying to make excuses for him not to be here full time, and the honest truth was that we just wanted some time to save up a little money to help pay for things.  

In the end, he did just pay for it.  We are learning, slowly, that we are now dealing with life on a totally different budget and scale.  It's taking us a long time to come up to his level, and a long time for him to come down to ours.  We're sometimes spending more than we intend to, and he's sometimes having to go without something when I come home from the store.  

But that's life, right?

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